The customer is always right?

I had a very bad customer experience recently. About a year ago i purchased a software package that I've lauded several times. It does its job well. After some time spent moving last year and a few other things I got around to re-installing and starting to use the software again. As I did so there was a new beta version of the software.

Some history is necessary to understand this completely. The product had released version 3.0 as its first version, numbers having been changed to protect the guilty. The "upgrade" from 3.0 to 3.1 was free. Now comes 3.5 as a free 'beta' version that expires. It takes some work, not much, to install each beta but there were some nice fixes to old annoyances. So I downloaded beta 3.5 and installed it. Several times through the beta cycle as a matter of fact. Along the way I contributed several hours to the beta testing of the new product, a worthwhile trade for the new features.

Once 3.5 was released the download went away and was replaced by a site asking for a modest fee for the upgrade. Of course by this time my data was all in 3.5 format and there was little option but pay the fee. At $20 it wasn't a huge deal but it really made me much less happy about the product. It is still good but I'll watch out for updates. As a part of the form for the upgrade it asks for comments so I mentioned that I was disappointed.

There is a note to business people coming. Take your mother's advice. If you can't say anything nice keep your mouth shut. A customer won't like the "well I posted it over there" response. Not at all. The response I got said the information had been posted on a beta email list and on the blog of the product's owner back in November. Great, so I'm supposed to know that I should have to subscribe to an optional list or read the archives of a blog instead of being able to think the documentation that comes with the download would actually contain the information. At the end of the day I know that this developer doesn't care much about the user's experience. They've put together a pretty good product but I don't expect it to last with the attitude employed. So there is my story, well almost.

The snippy email from the developer telling me how wrong I was to not have guessed that I needed to join these lists or read the publisher's blog for important details caused me to respond. I explained that with a several MB download the extra bandwidth for a note explaining it is going to be a paid upgrade after you invest your time in doing the developer's work wouldn't have been much. Then comes the cardinal sin. The empty "I'm sorry." The business person who is no more sorry than Timothy McVeigh should never say they are sorry. Why do so many business people make this mistake?

Lies Compounded

The problem is that now instead of being deceptive and having roped me into paying a bit of money now I'm being lied to. So we have a business person that deceives and then lies. Any guesses how much more business I'll be sending over after I get my data free? (Hint: you won't need any fingers to count it.) All because after making a mistake a business person is too proud to admit it and do the right thing by the customer. And all for a measly $20.